How to get away with murder? Maybe don’t write a blog post about getting away with murder.
Last week, police in Portland arrested 68-year-old Nancy Crampton-Brophy. She is charged with the murder of her 63-year-old husband, chef Daniel Brophy.
At 8:30 a.m. on June 2, police and medics arrived at the Oregon Culinary Institute, after students and instructors arriving for class found Brophy suffering from a gunshot wound. The first-responders attempted to revive him but weren’t successful. In a press conference that day, police said they were investigating the death as a homicide and that they had no immediate suspects.
Crampton-Brophy is a self-published author of romantic suspense novels, many featuring chiseled ex-Navy SEALs — books with “rugged men, strong women and a good story,” she touted on her website.
There she described her home life — one that read like the satisfying last pages of a romance novel:
“I live in the beautiful, green, and very wet, Northwest, married to a Chef whose mantra is: life is a science project. As a result there are chickens and turkeys in my backyard, a fabulous vegetable garden which also grows tobacco for an insecticide and a hot meal on the table every night. For those of you who have longed for this, let me caution you. The old adage is true. Be careful what you wish for, when the gods are truly angry, they grant us our wishes.
“… I can’t tell you when I fell in love with my husband, but I relate the moment I decided to marry him. I was in the bath. It was a big tub. I expected him to join me and when he was delayed, I called out, ‘Are you coming?’
“His answer convinced me he was Mr. Right. ‘Yes, but I’m making hors d’oeuvres.’ Can you imagine spending the rest of your life without a man like that?”
“As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure,” the post read. “After all, if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail. And let me say clearly for the record, I don’t like jumpsuits and orange isn’t my color.”
The essay described a range of possible motives for murdering a husband, ranging from avoiding the financial hit of a divorce to infidelity by a “lying, cheating bastard,” and even the possibility that the wife is a professional contract killer.
It also weighed the pros and cons of different methods: “Guns — loud, messy, require some skill. … Knives — really personal and close up. Blood everywhere. Eww.”
She warned against committing a crime of passion: “Most of the time there is a trail that leads directly to you. Each type of murder leaves clues. A crime of passion does not look like a stranger was involved.”
The couple had been married for 27 years, according to The Oregonian, and were reportedly inseparable. Brophy was a lead instructor at the culinary institute, where he was remembered as “the resident encyclopedia of knowledge” with “offbeat sense of humor and creative approach to teaching.”
The day after her husband’s death, Crampton-Brophy posted an update to Facebook.
“I have sad news to relate. My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy was killed yesterday morning. For those of you who are close to me and feel this deserved a phone call, you are right, but I’m struggling to make sense of everything right now,” she wrote. “While I appreciate all of your loving responses, I am overwhelmed. Please save phone calls for a few days until I can function.”
But a neighbor, Don McConnell, told the Oregonian of an odd interaction with the widow.
“She never showed any signs of being upset or sad,” McConnell said. “I would say she had an air of relief, like it was almost a godsend.”
He asked if the police had been keeping her updated. “She said, ‘No, I’m a suspect,’ ” without emotion, McConnell said.
The news was a jolt to others.
“It’s a big shock. It’s a big shock,” Brophy’s mother, Karen Brophy, told The Washington Post. “But we’re not making any statements.”
“Everyone that knows her, especially those closer to her than myself are sick at heart,” Anna Brentwood, a writer who says she has known the couple for two decades told the Oregonian. “We are hoping the police are wrong and just going after the easiest target.”
At a candlelight vigil a week after his death, Daniel Brophy was remembered as being gruff on the outside, compassionate underneath. Attendees recalled a cow costume the instructor used with Velcro labels to illustrate cuts of beef.
The costume was hand-sewn by Crampton-Brophy, who spoke of her late husband. “He loved teaching, he loved mushrooms, and he loved family,” she said, according to the Portland Tribune. “Not only was life a science experiment, but sometimes it was an adventure.”
Near the end of the blog post imagining how and why to kill one’s husband, Crampton-Brophy wrote that she finds “it is easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them.”
“I don’t want to worry about blood and brains splattered on my walls. And really, I’m not good at remembering lies. But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough.”
Crampton-Brophy was arraigned in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Thursday, her eyes wide. The judge approved a request by prosecutors to seal the court document outlining the case against her.
She wore a blue jumpsuit.